City Noir by John Adams: a Way to Interpretation

Tatiana V. Tsaregradskaya


John Coolidge Adams is at the present times is one of the leading composers of the USA. Being a conductor of world renown, he composes particularly frequently for the orchestra — the musical means that is the closest for the composer. In 2009 he composer City Noir — a three-movement orchestral piece inspired by an entire “bouquet” of sources. Among them is the culture and the spirit of the West Coast of the USA in general and of California in particular, the aura of Los Angeles and the era in the life of the city connected with the emergence of films in the style of “noir.” It is referred to the time period of the 1940s and the 1950s with their half-criminal romanticism of night-time adventures, bold energies and a blood-bustling freedom. Dedicated to conductor Dudamel, the orchestral composition City Noir balances in terms of genre between a three-movement symphony, a soundtrack to a film and a jazz suite, relegating the listener’s imagination to the cult figures in jazz during the 1950s, the experience of composing in the jazz idiom (among such composers as Milhaud and Gershwin) and to elements of ekphrasis (referring to Wat Disney’s unique concert hall constructed by the ingenious architect Frank Gary). The article provides an overview of all the sources of Adams’ musical ideas and engages in the attempt to interpret the result of the composer’s work.

Keywords: John Coolidge Adams, City Noir, symphony, soundtrack, jazz suite, ekphrasis

For citation: Tsargradskaya T. V. City Noir by John Adams: a Way to Interpretation. In: Sovremennye problemy muzykoznaniya / Contemporary Musicology, 2023, no. 4, pp. 68–103. (In Russ.)


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